With a tell-all book raising concerns about US President Trump’s mental stability, there is a renewed question asking why the most powerful man in the world is not required to pass a thorough mental health exam.
Trump defended himself as a “very stable genius” in a tweetstorm over the weekend. But his remarks have done little to quell questions swirling about why the man with the nation’s nuclear codes doesn’t have to undergo more rigorous mental health evaluations.
“I think it’s totally legitimate to ask about that and to have that as part of the examination,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and a CNN contributor. “I generally think that once someone’s president — or once someone’s even running for office — this should be fair game.
“This isn’t about scandal, and it’s not some kind of exposé. It’s understanding whether someone is fit to hold the office and whether there is any problem that the president himself — or his advisers, or the country — should be aware of.”
Trump, 71, is to undergo a medical exam on Friday by White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson, who performed President Barack Obama’s last several physicals while he was in office. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has promised a readout of the results as soon as information becomes available, but it’s ultimately up to the president as to what information he wants to share with the public.
CNN reached out to multiple former White House physicians to learn what is routinely covered during the exams and what sort of mental health evaluations, if any, are done, but they were all unreachable or declined to comment.
The debate over a president’s mental acumen is not new. Former President Jimmy Carter sought to change the criteria in the mid-1990s, saying the president should be evaluated by an outside panel of medical experts because too much is at stake.
“At this time, the determination is made by the president’s personal physicians who must try to balance patient confidentiality and personal interest vis-à-vis the nation’s interest. We must find a better way,” Carter wrote in the December 1994 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.